San Diegans hail President Bush as champion of disability rights

SAN DIEGO (KUSI)- In a remarkable record of achievements, President George H.W. Bush is also being hailed as the president whose efforts led to comprehensive civil rights legislation that protects the rights of those who are disabled.

In July, 1990 President Bush signed the landmark “Americans with Disabilities Act” into law.

At The Arc of San Diego, a non-profit organization that offers services and programs to 2,500 adults and children with disabilities in San Diego County, program participants and advocates for disability rights called the legislation transformative.

The impact of the law is seen in almost every public place, with curb cuts, wheelchair ramps and designated parking spots to permit more access by those who are disabled.

However, the impact of the law goes far beyond removing physical barriers; it also removed barriers to education, housing and employment opportunities. Matthew Mouer, the chief operating officer at The Arc of San Diego noted that before the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, job applicants with disabilities were frequently rejected for jobs.

“You really didn’t have the right to sue somebody based on discrimination because there was no law preventing discrimination for people with disabilities,” Mouer said.

When first introduced in Congress, the ADA was opposed by business groups who argued that complying with the law would be too expensive.

Nearly three decades later, the ADA still stands as testament to a nation’s creed, that “all are created equal.”

After signing the law, President Bush pronounced, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

The ADA’s enforcement provision regarding public accomodations such as wheelchair access to stores, theaters and restaurants is modeled on the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In approving the ADA, Congress recognized that people with disabilities and their access to public spaces should be treated no differently than the protections given to people based on race, religion and national origin.

The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a triumph of bi-partisan efforts with the collaboration of Democrats and Republicans.

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